The Hallowed Ground of Sanford & Benedict
We are so fortunate to work with the original, 1971, own-rooted plantings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the famed Sanford & Benedict vineyard. By any reasonable account, this is one of the 5 most important vineyards in the new world and a little under 50 acres remain of these original old vines. Much has been written about this vineyard over the last 4 decades, but it is so meaningful to me for 2 special reasons.
When Richard Sanford planted vines in 1971, there was not another vineyard in sight. Just about everyone thought he was either crazy, or must be planting a vineyard for sparkling wine, because there was no way Pinot Noir and Chardonnay would fully ripen so close to the Pacific Ocean. 36 years later, Sashi Moorman and I undertook to plant an estate 3 miles closer to the Pacific Ocean than Sanford & Benedict, at the very edge of the appellation. Many people thought the same of us as they did of Richard those many years ago. We must be crazy! We could never have achieved what we have at Domaine de la Côte without the precedent set at Sanford & Benedict
My winemaking mentor, Jim Clendenen has purchased fruit and made wine from this same block of old vines since the 1987 vintage. He too was a pioneer in seeking out cooler growing regions, fermenting naturally and without additives, bottling without filtration, and making wines of balance and finesse to be enjoyed with food. The wines of Au Bon Climat and the guidance and generosity of Jim Clendenen have much to do with our efforts at Sandhi. Every time we bottle a new vintage from Sanford & Benedict, we hope to do the vineyard and our forbearers justice as we continue the tradition of cool-climate, balanced winemaking in the Sta. Rita Hills.
Click HERE to purchase our 2015 Sanford & Benedict bottlings.
Wine & Spirits Restaurant Poll Results!
Wine & Spirits annual ‘Restaurant Issue’ is on newsstands now. Each year, the magazine polls sommeliers, wine directors, and F&B professionals all over the country about their wine lists. For the second consecutive year Sandhi’s Santa Barbara County Chardonnay appears in the top-5 for restaurant Chardonnay brands.
New this year is the same wine’s entry into the top-10 By-The-Glass wines! These tremendous accolades are due to the strong support from our distributor partners and hundreds of sommeliers and beverage directors who choose to pour Sandhi Chardonnay By-The-Glass.
Pick up your April issue of Wine & Spirits Magazine and go have a glass of Sandhi Chardonnay!
Spotlight on Bentrock Chardonnay
“Precision, finesse, and downright deliciousness.”
No Sandhi wine elicits the sheer excitement of Bentrock. Critics, fellow winemakers, and sommeliers all single out Bentrock as their favorite Sandhi single vineyard Chardonnay. This month, we’re focusing on Bentrock Chardonnay. What makes the vineyard so special and how does that translate to your glass?
Fundamentally, Bentrock is different from all other Sandhi Chardonnay vineyards. It is different with respect to geography, geology, vine age, and the philosophical approach to planting and farming.
Bentrock sits out on the western edge of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation. It is a full 3 miles closer to the Pacific Ocean than Sanford & Benedict and Mt. Carmel. This means the Chardonnay vines at Bentrock must struggle against more environmental stress factors than elsewhere. If our estate vineyards at Domaine de la Côte have a Chardonnay corollary, it is Bentrock. Being on the edge of what is possible is what produces wines that have the potential to excite the drinker.
The ancient marine soils in Bentrock are nutrient poor, causing the vines to struggle mightily. The soils are weathered shale and diatomaceous earth. These are the elements that imbue Bentrock Chardonnay with its nerve and mineral streak. These soils are also basic (on the pH scale) and result in fruit with very high levels of natural acidity.
Vine Age and Vine Density
Bentrock was planted in 2007, the same year as our Domaine de la Côte estate. Both planted at high vine densities of 4,000-7,000 vines to the acre, this close planting promotes competition and natural concentration, but it also allows the vines to protect each other from the constant winds that batter the vineyard throughout the day.
Despite the relative youth of the vines, the density, meager soils, and harsh conditions all conspire to produce a taut, complex, and exciting expression of Chardonnay!